Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 208–224

Toward a general mechanism of electron capture dissociation


DOI: 10.1016/j.jasms.2004.11.001

Cite this article as:
Syrstad, E.A. & Turecček, F. J Am Soc Mass Spectrom (2005) 16: 208. doi:10.1016/j.jasms.2004.11.001


The effects of positive charge on the properties of ammonium and amide radicals were investigated by ab initio and density functional theory calculations with the goal of elucidating the energetics of electron capture dissociation (ECD) of multiply charged peptide ions. The electronic properties of the amide group in N-methylacetamide (NMA) are greatly affected by the presence of a remote charge in the form of a point charge, methylammonium, or guanidinium cations. The common effect of the remote charge is an increase of the electron affinity of the amide group, resulting in exothermic electron capture. The N—Cα bond dissociation and transition state energies in charge-stabilized NMA anions are 20–50 kJ mol−1 greater than in the hydrogen atom adduct. The zwitterions formed by electron capture have proton affinities that were calculated as 1030–1350 kJ mol−1, and are sufficiently basic for the amide carbonyl to exothermically abstract a proton from the ammonium, guanidinium and imidazolium groups in protonated lysine, arginine, and histidine residues, respectively. A new mechanism is proposed for ECD of multiply charged peptide and protein cations in which the electron enters a charge-stabilized electronic state delocalized over the amide group, which is a superbase that abstracts a proton from a sterically proximate amino acid residue to form a labile aminoketyl radical that dissociates by N—Cα bond cleavage. This mechanism explains the low selectivity of N—Cα bond dissociations induced by electron capture, and is applicable to dissociations of peptide ions in which the charge carriers are metal ions or quaternary ammonium groups. The new amide superbase and the previously proposed mechanisms of ECD can be uniformly viewed as being triggered by intramolecular proton transfer in charge-reduced amide cation-radicals. In contrast, remote charge affects N—H bond dissociation in weakly bound ground electronic states of hypervalent ammonium radicals, as represented by methylammonium, CH3NH3·, but has a negligible effect on the N—H bond dissociation in the strongly bound excited electronic states. This refutes previous speculations that loss of “hot hydrogen” can occur from an excited state of an ammonium radical.

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© American Society for Mass Spectrometry 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ChemistryUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA